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Copart Industries, Inc. v. Consolidated Edison Company of New York

362 N.E.2d 968 (1977)

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Copart Industries, Inc. v. Consolidated Edison Company of New York

New York Court of Appeals

362 N.E.2d 968 (1977)

Facts

Copart Industries, Inc. (Copart) (plaintiff) conducted storage and new-car preparation operations in a portion of the former Brooklyn Navy Yard. Adjacent to the navy yard was a plant of Consolidated Edison Company of New York (ConEd) (defendant), which generated steam and electricity. ConEd’s generating system had smokestacks that emitted the fumes from burning sulfur-containing oil. Copart alleged that noxious emissions from ConEd’s smokestacks damaged its customers’ vehicles, causing Copart to permanently shut down its business. Copart sued ConEd under causes of action of nuisance and trespass. Copart introduced the testimony of witnesses in support of Copart’s contention that ConEd operated its plant in a negligent manner. The trial court charged the jury on nuisance based on negligence and nuisance grounded on an intentional invasion of Copart’s rights. The trial court instructed the jury that although contributory negligence may be a defense if the basis of the nuisance was merely negligent conduct, it would not be a defense if the wrongdoing was founded on the intentional, deliberate misconduct of ConEd. Copart argued that nuisance was entirely separate and apart from negligence and that ConEd’s intent was not an essential element of the cause of action of nuisance. The jury found for ConEd, and Copart’s complaint was dismissed. A divided appellate court affirmed. Copart appealed, arguing that its complaint contained no allegations of negligence and that its theory was that of nuisance. Copart further argued that the trial court erred in charging that (1) Copart was required to prove ConEd intended to cause damage, and (2) Copart had a burden of proof as to ConEd’s negligence and Copart’s freedom from contributory negligence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cooke, J.)

Dissent (Fuchsberg, J.)

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